Concentration

I said: ARE YOU CONCENTRATING?

To be fair, you probably aren't. After all, these are just words, you have far more interesting things to occupy your mind and you neither know nor care anything about the writer - so why should you? Concentrate, I mean.

Well, if you can stay awake for a lot less time than it's going to take me to write this piece, you might enjoy the ride. So I crave your indulgence and a couple of minutes of your time in order to open your eyes to the importance of thinking about driving.

Mind you, there are any number of things I might engage you with: deer farming, F1, the state of the EURO, any number of diseases, world politics, conservation, radio 4 comedy programmes, English law, crosswords, internet dating, education...

Ah, sorry. I was digressing.

Or rather, for a moment, I wasn't concentrating on why I'm writing this. Easily done. I trust you'll forgive me - whatever the consequences might have been while I wasn't fully paying attention.

Hang on a tick, the phone's ringing. Again. Oh goodness, now the dog's got a seemingly desperate need to go outside.

Ok, back now. Where was I?

Oh yes. Driving and concentration.

The Collins English Dictionary definition of concentration is thus: intense mental application; complete attention. The same source defines distraction as: an interruption; an obstacle to concentration.

Some of the most respected driving guides and training regimes will often insist that in order to drive well, every driver needs to apply focus and concentration to the task, all of the time.

Those of us with, perhaps, a more enlightened view of human nature will tend to view concentration as a more flexible tool within the driver's armoury. How many normal road drivers would be able to apply (and maintain for two hours) the intense levels of concentration of, say, an F1 driver during a race? Probably not many. Even the act of watching a Grand Prix on TV is likely to be interrupted by 'distractions' such as unrelated thoughts, the need for more tea or coffee, phone calls and conversations. And I'm talking as someone who has a vested familial interest in the BBC's commentary!

So, I'd argue that concentration is to be seen as a variable rather than as a constant when it comes to everyday road driving.

When the idea of measuring this variable is voiced, it appears as though the received wisdom is that most drivers can only apply concentration for a quarter of the available time. Now, whether that's 6 hours in every 24 or 15 minutes in one hour or one minute in four is something of a moot point.

And, of course it doesn't even contemplate the myriad distractions of which most experienced drivers are aware: phones, passengers, business stresses, schedules, journey complexity, non-driving-relevant 'distractions' outside the vehicle and the things we all do inside the vehicle, many of which aren't strictly necessary.

Let's therefore view it from a more pragmatic perspective:

  • It makes logical sense to concentrate more when risk levels are higher
  • The risk of having a crash is greatest when there are more road users 'competing' for a limited amount of space (think around town, car parks etc.)
  • The risk of having a crash in which the likelihood of having serious injury consequences is greatest is on the faster, non- urban and non-motorway routes
  • Ergo, when you are driving in areas of greater or increased risk, concentrate more. And when the risk levels drop, relax a little

Of course this does depend more than a little on your own perception of risk but remember there's usually a clue as to what you might be having to deal with: roadsigns (particularly warning signs), the old 'more paint, more danger' saying, the weather and road conditions and the behaviour of other road users.

If you then make a conscious decision to risk-grade your driving environment to yourself (for example by assigning 'high-medium-low' or 1 to 10 scores) you will find that after a short time your concentration levels rise or fall to match your perception of risk.

And, whilst it's true that your perception is not an 'absolute' guide to what's risky or not, with practice and a regular application of the principle, you will find that the process can become one of those rather rare things: a good driving habit.

So, if you can stay focussed for long enough, and you have a driver training need you'd like to discuss or address, contact the team at Automotional.

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